Pundits have long been predicting a “libertarian moment” in which the ideas of individual liberty and accountable government become predominant in society and politics.
But with both the Democratic and Republican parties riven by faction and captive to their zealots, bringing us polarization and dysfunction in Washington, might not we be approaching a moment in which the stubborn political duopoly finally totters and falls?
Which is to say, might not an opportunity for changing the structure of American politics be upon us? For a competitive three-party system to take hold?
And if so, might not libertarian ideas be the ideas around which the third party coalesces?
For those dismayed by our current politics and interested in a more representative and responsive system, the question becomes, “How might such a moment arrive? And what can I myself do to bring it about?”
The Libertarian Moment
The predictions for a libertarian moment go back to the mid-1990s, when the nationally syndicated columnist, David Broder, wrote about the rise of political independents who exhibit libertarian sensibilities; who endorse personal freedoms while opposing governmental excesses.
In 2008, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, two libertarian voices, influentially declared the movement’s moment to be near. They emphasized that the 20th century had shown authoritarianism to be inimical to human happiness and welfare; that the 21st century was establishing information technology as a force for decentralizing power and promoting freedom.
More recently, however, the talk is that the elusive libertarian moment may have passed.
Meantime, information technology is revealing its threatening side, as seen from exploitation of personal data and enforcement of political correctness on digital media platforms; as seen from the encroachment of intelligent automation into the workplace.
And politically, the intellectual triumph of libertarianism within the Republican party, which was to be the sine que non of the libertarian moment in some conceptions, never occurred.
As Gillespie himself recently wrote, “There is no question that the ascendancy of libertarian-ish politicians is not happening, in the Republican Party or anywhere else.”
The Two-Party Problem
But perhaps it was wrong to expect that the libertarian moment could and would arrive under the two-party system?
When maybe instead, the moment can and will arrive only when the two established parties succumb to their respective internal contradictions, yielding to their intemperate wings and provoking exodus by the libertarian-ish voters who have remained in the parties; provoking rejection by the Independent voters who have supported the parties even if not enlisted with them?
For any such exodus and rejection to occur, voters will need a worthy alternative to the two established parties, so that the intolerant Left, the resentful Right, and the libertarian-ish middle can each settle into their own intellectually coherent and politically consistent homes.
The Worthy and Welcoming LP Alternative
The Libertarian Party (LP) is the that worthy alternative, even if the pundits tend to overlook it.
The LP is worthy, first, because it is the only party devoted to the principles of freedom and accountability for individuals and institutions, so as to preserve our liberties while continuing to advance justice and prosperity for all.
The LP is worthy, second, because it is the only party devoted to ideas instead of identity. Moral dignity and lawful equality for each and every person, regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.
Which is to say, the LP is the natural and proper home for those across the middle who are socially tolerant and fiscally responsible; for those from the intellectual world who would describe themselves as classical liberals.
And while the LP has not always appeared from the outside to be entirely inviting, it is today an accepting and growing party with an open door to all who are libertarian-minded.
The Political Moment is a Personal Moment
So, how does the libertarian moment arrive? It arrives by libertarian-ish voters experiencing their own personal moments, in which they recognize their irrelevance within the duopoly; in which they resolve to change their political affiliations and voting habits.
If and when these socially tolerant, fiscally responsible voters have their personal moments and coalesce into a new American middle, the libertarians’ anticipated moment will have arrived, while the duopoly’s extended moment will have expired. The coming and the going are a twain.
At some point, the de facto disenfranchisement of the de facto libertarian-ish majority will no longer stand. And for those who would speculate on the timing, when has the duopoly’s moment more appeared or more deserved to be passing than today?
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Written by David Lashar
Originally published as an op-ed in The Capital Gazette, which was obliged to edit for space constraints. This version is the full version. It includes hyperlilnks to supporting material.